On the nature of covert operations

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The phenomenon analyzed in this paper is instantiated by a type of pseudocleft structure in (oral) Spanish, characterized by the fact that when the element which is actually clefted (which is also marked as focus) is an internal argument, it can ‘extend’ its focal status to the constituents dominating it (VP/IP). As a consequence, in these constructions syntactic structure does not match semantic interpretation. This is (obligatorily) accompanied by a phenomenon of ‘relative reduction’: the relative pronoun in the relative clause does not spell out the features of the clefted element but those of the constituent which is actually interpreted as focus (i.e. the VP or the whole IP). The analysis proposed for this phenomenon is that there is a covert process of focus extension preceded by (also covert) reconstruction. In particular, we adapt the monoclausal analysis of English cleft structures (Kiss’ 1998) to pseudoclefts and claim that (identificational) focus propagates in a direct path to VP or IP thus accounting for the interpretation obtained. This account will be extended to other structures including a type of wh-structure, the so called ‘split interrogatives’.


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